For the first time in the history of high school debates around the world, a Filipino was awarded the ‘gold medal’ at what is considered the Olympics of high school debates.
Robert “Toby” Leung, a Grade 12 student from Philippine Science High School – Baguio Campus, bagged the Overall Best Speaker title at the said tilt. Leung obtained an average of 73.17 speaker points across eight (8) preliminary debate rounds and bested 372 other students around the world including students from known debate powerhouses Canada and Singapore.
The World Schools Debate Championships (WSDC), considered to be the ‘Olympics of high school debate’ by debate societies, is an annual global debate competition that began in 1988. It uses the World Schools format, the global standard for high school debating. No Filipino has won or has been awarded the Best Speaker of the tournament in its history until now.
Three other members of the Philippine high school debate team were given best speaker awards at the 2021 edition of WSDC. David Bloom, from the International School of Manila, was awarded 4th Best Speaker. Jake Peralta, from Southridge High School, was awarded 6th Best Speaker. Riva Fong, from De La Salle Zobel, was awarded 11th Best Speaker.
The Philippines bagged the ‘bronze medal’ by reaching the semifinals for the second time. It first achieved the distinction in 2012. The Philippines scored 6 wins and 2 losses out of 8 preliminary rounds and ranked 3rd in the knockout rounds. The Philippines faced and defeated Czech Republic in the pre-octos, India in the octofinals, and Romania in the quarterfinals to reach the semis where PH bowed out to Hong Kong on the topic entitled “This House supports an individual carbon credit.”
The Philippine team had to go through eight grueling rounds of debate in the preliminaries. Four rounds consisted of ‘prepared motions’ that are given a month in advance so the team can research and prepare their arguments. The other four rounds consisted of ‘impromptu motions’ that are given only an hour before the debate so the team has to rely on their stock knowledge and debate techniques to win.
The Philippine team debated topics such as the commercialization of space, the right of Olympic athletes to protest, reducing income tax rates for women, and the Westernization of elites in post-colonial countries.
The 2021 edition of WSDC had the participation of 76 countries all over the world. This year’s edition marks the 2nd consecutive year that WSDC was held online through Zoom and other online platforms given the COVID-19 pandemic. The 2021 edition was organized and hosted by Macau and ran from July 26 to August 6.
The 2021 Philippine team to WSDC is composed of the following high school students: Robert Leung, Grade 12, Philippine Science HS – Baguio campus; David Bloom, Grade 12, International School of Manila – Taguig campus; Jake Peralta, Grade 12, PAREF Southridge HS – Alabang campus; Riva Fong, Grade 12, De La Salle Zobel HS – Alabang campus; and Chanel Ang, Grade 12, Immaculate Conception Academy HS – Greenhills campus.
WSDC Philippines Team Manager and Coach-at-Large Jesus Falcis III, an Asian debate champion, tapped the best debaters of the world in 2020 from the London School of Economics to train and coach the 2021 Team.
Coaching online from the United Kingdom were Abhinav Bathula, who was previously a member of the PH team to WSDC from 2017 to 2018, and Arth Mishra, who was a member of the Australian WSDC team. The two topped the rankings of the World Universities Debate Championships (WUDC), considered to be the Olympics of university debating, in 2020.